TV channel Lifetime original series You was cancelled due to a lack of interest and a weak following from the audience. Now, Netflix has picked it back up, adding just enough twists to create suspense and infuse a bit of uniqueness to what used to be a typical show about a love story. Upon first seeing it in the spotlight on Netflix, I barely regarded it, assuming that the show would be nothing but another sappy love story where stalking is romanticized and seen as an effort to pursue a relationship. Falling in love usually entails a preoccupied mind and obsession without crossing the stalker line, but when it comes down to a cunning, psychological character with a dark past, lines will be crossed.
The show stars bookstore owner Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) who falls in love with aspiring writer Guinevere Beck, better known as Beck (Elizabeth Lail). Their first interaction takes place in his bookstore, and soon after Joe finds her address and begins to stalk her. Joe’s obsession spirals out of control once he steals Beck’s phone and begins following Beck to every event she attends. Soon enough, he starts attacking Beck’s loved ones who stand in his way of being her lover, but with his believable words and actions, he is able to cover up his tracks, diverting all the attention away from himself. Despite Joe’s relentless and potentially dangerous obsession, he still manages to get with Beck as his ordinary personality screams anything but extreme, psychotic stalker.
I’ve wanted to punch the screen in uncountable instances while watching You, mainly because of Beck’s absolute obliviousness to Joe’s stalking. Her walls are glass windows that allow any passerby on the street to see into her home and watch her. Joe uses this to his advantage and stands across from her house watching her while she changes right in front of the windows, which I find to be nothing short of terrifying. When eating out with friends or going to family events, Beck either doesn’t catch Joe in plain sight or believes Joe’s excuses for why he is where she is. Her lack of wit and suspicion makes me beyond unsettled, as I would think it’s simple enough to have the least bit of concern when a boy you’ve met once shows up everywhere you go.
The plot occasionally diverts from Joe’s obsession with Beck and follows Joe’s constant care for Paco, a boy who lives with his abusive stepfather and helpless mother in Joe’s apartment building. By defining Joe as a morally sound person with good intentions, it becomes even more difficult for Beck to realize that he has a killer (literally) obsession with her. The plot thickens when Joe knows exactly what Beck is in need of, especially in one instance when he offers to go furniture shopping after witnessing Beck break her bed one night. Beck thinks he is the perfect lover because he can “read her mind.” The show leaves no chance for her oblivious, hopelessly romantic character to realize he really just knows everything about her because he stalks her.
By showcasing Beck as a girl yearning for love, it contradicts the show’s attempt to portray a strong, feminist character in her. I could never blame Beck for this, but I do blame only the writers of the show for this huge contradiction. Beck is pictured to be a desperate, submissive woman trying to get a TA job by her professor, insisting that the writers think the idea of sleeping with people in power to get jobs is still acceptable. At one point, she calls out her professor for his sexual advances and makes this whole feminist speech, but her character is still outweighed by the weak, feeble image that molds her throughout the show.
In the spirit of positivity, the show itself seems sarcastic as Joe narrates everything in his calm tone, despite the excessive murdering, stalking and obsessions. I find this beyond entertaining as Joe attempts to normalize his actions and concerns with his intentions. So, despite all the faults in Beck’s character, Joe has a distinct charm that overpowers his creepy obsession and three murders that we really can’t blame him for. No wonder Beck falls for him.